Science Says: Preschool—It’s Good for Your Kids!

June 13th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized

Where Sasha gets an early start on avoiding jail.

As New York parents, we here at DadWagon fret a lot about preschool: where to go, how to get in, how to game the system so that our kids can wind up in the same classrooms as their friends, and where the closest bar is. But I think on some level, we all just assume that our kids will go to one preschool or another, whether it’s a privately run concern or a universal pre-K slot halfway across the city.

And so it’s good to remember that not everyone makes that assumption. What’s more, according to Mother Jones and Science magazine, sending kids to preschool has lifelong beneficial effects:

The results were especially good among children born to mothers who never finished high school: high school completion rates were roughly ten percentage points higher and rates of substance abuse and felony charges were roughly ten percentage points lower. Overall, the preschool groups had higher high school graduation rates, higher on-time graduation rates, higher college attendance, higher economic status, and higher incomes compared to the group who didn’t attend preschool. Interestingly, the positive effects were limited to boys. Girls, however, responded more positively to school-age interventions.

If you look at the charts associated with this story, though, there are a couple of funny quirks. For one, children of mothers who finished high school were more likely to wind up with felony charges if they went to preschool than if they didn’t. But if mom didn’t graduate, they were far less likely. Weird. What were they teaching in those preschools?

Also, going to preschool (or not) had no effect on rates of substance abuse among kids whose mothers finished high school. (Although if mom didn’t finish, preschool kids were far less likely to use drugs than their non-preschool peers.)

The MoJo post does a lot of cost calculation—does early-intervention preschool save society money in the long run?—but I like this story as a comforting salve to the stresses of the New York City education system. That is, wherever Sasha’s going to school, at least she’s going somewhere, and will be somewhat less likely to use drugs or drop out of high school than the kids who skip preschool. Still, I’m not looking forward to those felony charges.

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